Town angry after movie wins Oscar




“The Cove,” an examination of a bloody dolphin hunt, won the Academy Award for best documentary feature Sunday to the anger and dismay of residents of the coastal community where the film was made.

Directed by Louie Psihoyos, the controversial U.S. film was shot in the coastal town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture.

The filmmaker employed hidden cameras and microphones because the local fishing cooperative would not allow the camera crew access to the cove where the dolphins were slaughtered.

Local residents were incensed that their faces were filmed without approval while hidden footage was taken of dolphins being killed.

A 35-year-old homemaker whose grandfather had worked on a whaling ship said: “We have eaten whale and dolphin meat for generations. I don’t understand why the film singles out the dolphin hunt for such a negative reaction. I cannot believe it received an Oscar.”

Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen and the local fishing cooperative issued a statement Monday morning that said: “There are elements in the movie that make false assertions not based on any scientific evidence as though it were the truth. It is important to possess a spirit of mutual respect after understanding the long traditions and actual circumstances surrounding the dietary culture of a region.”

Officials of the local fishing cooperative claim that some assertions in the movie are false, including one that dolphin meat was being sold as whale meat to hide the fact it was contaminated with mercury.

While there are plans to show the movie at about 20 theaters in Japan this summer, lawyers for the Taiji town hall and fishing cooperative said they would lobby for a cancellation.

Town officials demanded that the movie not be shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival last fall, but organizers went ahead with one showing.

Officials with Unplugged Inc., the distributor of “The Cove,” said changes would be made before the movie is screened in Japan. The faces of local residents would be scrambled and subtitles added at the end of the movie saying there are differences in studies about mercury levels and that Taiji town was opposed to elements of the movie.

Tokiya Nitta, a lecturer at the School of Marine Science and Technology at Tokai University who has studied the history of dolphin hunting along the Izu Peninsula of Shizuoka Prefecture, said the movie could strengthen the opinions of opponents of the practice.

“In Japan, there is a history of hunting the dolphins with feelings of gratitude and respect because it helped the Japanese when they were faced with famine because of the war,” Nitta said. “However, foreigners appear to only focus on the cruel reality of the hunt.”

Daisuke Onitsuka, a professor of American studies at Shizuoka Eiwa Gakuin University, said the visual impact of the movie was likely a major factor behind the winning of the Oscar.

“While it undoubtedly is a propaganda movie, I believe that overseas it is not the arguments of the movie that are being accepted, but the clash with the Taiji fishing cooperative and town officials that was viewed as being interesting,” Onitsuka said. “The main reason it was praised was the visual impact produced through the use of hidden cameras.”

Lost in Kyoto Gardens

Having not posted here for about 12 months, I need a good excuse and I have a doozy!

I was just across the street lost in some gardens, running around in 360 degree circles getting really confused so I couldn’t find my way back.

But I took some pictures while I was there to share with you:

Japanese linen, out of the closet and into the mainstream

By Kaori Shoji
Monday, August 25, 2008

New York Times

TOKYO: Japanese linen, once made almost obsolete by the general preference for the much cheaper Chinese product, is quietly making a comeback. Up until now, linen had been about summer shirts and suits, but these days the subtext is changing from mere summer fashion to year-round lifestyle.

“‘People are starting to think differently about textiles, and more are buying or using linen in the way Europeans did in the 19th century,” said the interior stylist Mika Sonomiya. “Unlike cotton, good linen is expensive but grows more beautiful with time and washing.”

Sonomiya is a self-professed “laundry fiend” and considers the washing/drying of linen products to be the highest of stress relievers. She insists on 100 percent domestic linen for sheets, towels and wraps, used lovingly in every aspect of daily living.

“Before, I loved the feel of French linen but now I’ve come to recommend the Japan-made product,” she said. “It makes sense to support the domestic textile industry, not just for cost purposes but simply because new companies in that field are doing great work.”

Kyoto and the nearby Omi region had been well known for domestic linen, and a few textile artisans had kept the flame going. But the problem is, their linen products are often formal (mostly kimono materials and related paraphernalia) and too expensive to use on a daily basis, which had kept the average linen user from crossing over to home-grown products.

Recognizing the demand for more casual linen, the textile giant Teikoku set up an online linen shop called Teisen where finely woven sheets, towels, pajamas and other sundries bearing the “made in Japan” logo are available.

“But the ones to watch are the smaller companies,” Sonomiya said. “Hardly anyone knows about them, because they operate on such a small basis and rarely bother to advertise.”

In Omi, the family-operated Loop produces bed and bath items made from ramie and hemp – stitched by hand and the brand logo (artfully faded) stamped with typewriter keys.

Closer to Tokyo, Oldman’s Tailor, run by the young couple Toku and Yuji Shimura, has become a metaphor for domestic linen products in just seven years, from its start in 2001. Oldman’s Tailor has no shop, and there are no employees, apart from the Shimuras (not counting Yuji’s mother, who helps out by washing and then sun-drying the finished products). The office is in their home (located at the foot of Mount Fuji, an area once renowned for textiles) and the more than 200 linen products they create (by themselves or collaborating with weavers) are sold in a handful of selected boutiques, or online.

The Shimuras, intent on making linen products “that would enchant and entice people 100 years later” are not only dedicated craftsmen but also designers – towels, for instance, have a marine theme that is reminiscent of the captain’s cabin of a French naval fleet in the late 19th century.

Sonomiya, a fan of the couple’s work, said: “There’s an unmistakable air of authenticity and romance in everything they make. You can tell that they understand and love linen, how romantic and evocative it is.”

Analysts see the revival of Japanese linen as part of a bigger trend, one that bears the stamp of ecology. The textile artist Hiromi Kanzaki said she sees a shift from “design to materials” in Japanese fashion.

“It’s less about the cut and the silhouette” than “whether the material is natural and how it feels on the skin, where it was made, whether the process damaged the environment unnecessarily,” Kanzaki said. “People are much more attuned to that sort of information.”

The concern and interest in materials is bolstering the domestic textile industry, and design companies, quick to ride the wave, are now creating textile products made from domestic organic cotton, washi and wood charcoal and colored with 100 percent water-soluble plant dyes.

As the editorial director Masanobu Sugatsuke said: “Right now, no fashion trend could emerge or last very long without giving a big bow to the environment, because the consumer is so much more concerned about such things than they were 10 years ago. Now whatever is wasteful, excessive or selfish just won’t cut it anymore, no matter how snazzy the design.”

This srikes me as pefectly normal behavior… how about you?

Tuesday 27th May, 10:02 AM JST

Man disguised as schoolgirl arrested for trespassing in Ibaraki school

A 30-year-old man was arrested Monday night for sneaking into an Ibaraki high school, wearing a schoolgirl’s uniform and wig, police said Tuesday.

Shigemitsu Kajiro, 30, was caught by a teacher in a corridor around 5:30 p.m. after the teacher noticed he was wearing shoes which did not match the school’s uniform. After discovering the student was a man, the teacher took him to a staff room and called police. The suspect has so far said nothing about what he was up to or whether he had done this before, police said.

Does Japan Need the iPhone?

The world’s most sophisticated users of wireless technology may be unimpressed by Apple’s high-tech gadget

But when the Cupertino (Calif.) company wades into the world’s most advanced wireless market next year, it could find Japan’s 98 million cell-phone users a hard bunch to please. For one thing, consumers here won’t be as starstruck by the iPhone’s high-tech gadgetry as users elsewhere. Japan’s 10 handset makers, which dominate the domestic market, already offer dozens of models typically costing several hundred dollars that send e-mail, browse the Internet, shoot photos and videos, and even pick up live TV broadcasts. Most come with a built-in global positioning system, and some even double as credit cards and commuter passes or safeguard personal data using fingerprint or face-recognition technology.

In its current form, the iPhone doesn’t work on Japan’s advanced third-generation, or 3G, network. Rumors abound that Steve Jobs & Co. will release a new, faster 3G iPhone next year. But analysts are skeptical that will be enough to please consumers in Japan. In its current form, the iPhone’s 3.5-inch touchscreen and its access to online applications such as YouTube and Google (GOOG) Maps are about all that set it apart from other handsets in Japan.

Potential Turnoff

In other ways, the device is inferior, and some of its functions won’t be all that useful. The iPhone’s Wi-Fi networking, for instance, won’t get much of a workout since few Japanese retailers are wired for such short-range broadband wireless Internet service. “I don’t think it’s going to do that well,” says Makio Inui, a managing director at UBS (UBS) in Tokyo. He predicts the iPhone’s high price and limited features will be a turnoff for many in Japan.

Where the iPhone will fill a need is with consumers like Keiko Ohashi. The 32-year-old sales manager already owns an iPod, doesn’t care for all the bells and whistles of Japanese handsets, and prefers the full QWERTY keypad and browser of a computer-like device. “I’d love to get an iPhone,” she says.

She may get her wish. In recent months, Jobs has met with Masao Nakamura, chief executive at Japan’s No. 1 wireless operator, NTT DoCoMo (DCM), to discuss a possible deal, DoCoMo spokesman Shinya Yokota said. Connecting the iPhone to DoCoMo’s high-speed 3G network isn’t the only draw for Apple. It also could tap into DoCoMo’s sales and marketing muscle. That gives Apple a better shot at grabbing a chunk of the roughly 50 million cell phones sold in Japan annually, and meeting its target of selling 10 million iPhones worldwide by 2008. (Apple had sold 1.4 million by Oct. 22.)

Stumbling Blocks in DoCoMo Talks

But industry executives think the negotiations are likely to get bogged down. DoCoMo declined to elaborate on the details of the talks, but Jobs is reportedly pushing for a cut of the iPhone’s revenues. (Apple officials couldn’t be reached for comment.) DoCoMo executives are likely to strongly resist such demands. One reason: Caving in to Apple would embolden other handset makers to try to win more favorable terms from DoCoMo.

DoCoMo also might balk at the idea of letting iPhone owners activate their handsets using Apple’s iTunes online music store, as AT&T allows in the U.S. DoCoMo subscribers now can only activate their phones at a licensed DoCoMo shop. Letting iPhone owners circumvent DoCoMo’s sales channel suggests they also would be able to avoid using DoCoMo’s proprietary i-mode portal site and all the music, shopping, and investing services that are offered through it. Stripped of the high-margin earnings from services, DoCoMo would simply be left managing the towers and servers of a wireless network. “If that happens, DoCoMo would be reduced to the dumb pipes they live in fear of becoming,” says one telco industry executive, who requested anonymity.

The two sides have a few other options. DoCoMo could rent spectrum to Apple in an arrangement known as mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO. But that would set Apple back at least $30 million just for the data centers to handle voice calls and data transmissions, and Apple would have to hire a local staff to manage the operations of a full-service wireless carrier. The two could work out a hybrid solution, such as having Apple pay a fee for spectrum in exchange for a cut of the iPhone’s revenues from DoCoMo. But finding a middle ground could take some time.

Hall is BusinessWeek‘s technology correspondent in Tokyo

Why mobile Japan leads the world

A combination of an urban lifestyle and infrastructure advantages mean that the fixed internet is being left behind by the mobile

Michael Fitzpatrick

The Guardian

Thursday September 27 2007

Japanese commuters while away the journey by watching TV on their mobiles. Photograph: David Sacks/Getty

Yasuko San is aiming her mobile at a small, square tattoo on paper, clicking a little and peering happily at the result. Her prize? The latest novel written for the mobile, entitled “Teddy”. Such serialised novels for mobiles are just the latest phone application that has caught the Japanese imagination, but – apart from neighbouring South Korea – few others.

Those printed square icons, however, made their debut in the UK earlier this month (to promote the DVD of the film 28 Weeks Later). Known as QR (quick read) codes, they have aided Japan’s mobile revolution by making it easy to access a web page via mobile. Users can be directed to sites by snapping the codes printed in magazines, posters and even on biscuits.

Mobile subscribers

Their British outing is a full four years behind Japan’s adoption. In fact, we lag Japan in nearly every aspect of mobile use – except possibly in annoying other commuters on trains.

Lost in Japan? Let your mobile’s GPS guide you. Bored? Download the latest manga comic or an e-book to read on the train, or go shopping and pay by swishing your mobile in front of the till, because the phone is also an electronic wallet.

You can also collect e-coupons, pay bills, play Final Fantasy, update your blog and pay and check into hotels wirelessly. Soon the airport check-in will be history in Japan, too, as the e-ticket in your phone becomes your boarding pass.

Nearly all are services based on the success of the mobile web in Japan, where in a nation of 127 million the number of mobile internet subscribers recently passed 100 million. Not for nothing are the Japanese now known as the Thumb Tribe – a tribe who, for the most part, prefer their mobile to the fixed internet.

Apart from the killer application – email – 80% say they use other functions too. Downloading music is popular (80% have tried it), as is TV for mobile – half of its subscribers use it regularly. Three quarters of users say they enjoy online clothes shopping with their mobile at least once a month. What they are less keen on is video calling: in Japan, as in the UK, 90% say “no thanks, never”. And as for using the mobile as a modem – to link to the internet – that’s very expensive in Japan.

It is no wonder those touting m-commerce as the next big web thing tell us Japan is the future blueprint. “Japan is the world’s high-tech testbed for a wide range of consumer electronic devices and systems – many of which never see the light of day in overseas markets,” says Daniel Scuka, keitai guru and consultant for publishers Wireless Watch Japan. “So keeping up with developments here is vital to knowing what’s going to hit Europe and the US 24 months in the future; doubly so with respect to mobile and wireless.”

By offering the Japanese a multiplicity of services – and, very importantly, some very cool handsets to use them on – the operators have created what every western mobile service provider is dreaming of: a mobile lifestyle culture that keeps millions reaching for the mobile rather than the fixed internet. But it does have its disadvantages.

Most us would feel miffed if we lost or damaged our mobiles. The Japanese would be paralysed without theirs: nearly half of Japanese confess to being obsessed with their mobile phones.

But why is such technology such a hit in Japan and not in other mobile-savvy nations such as Finland? According to the man who kickstarted the trend – the father of i-mode, NTT DoCoMo’s Takeshi Natsuno – it is because of the Japanese genius for designing new technologies that can be adopted by anyone, especially techno-phobes. It’s not about “bandwidth, nor standards, nor unique Japanese culture”, he says. It is about “fun and convenience”.

When i-mode was launched in the UK a few years ago, the hopes were Natsuno was right and mobile internet would take off as it had in Japan. It didn’t. “Basically these things succeeded best where the Japanese model was most faithfully stuck to. Telecom France, for example, had success with i-mode,” says Scuka.

Britain apparently went its own way with i-mode and relied on phones that weren’t up to the job. It flopped and recently was buried alongside that other great mobile pretender, WAP. However, we in Europe do not have some of the advantages that DoCoMo and the other carriers enjoy in Japan. As Terrie Lloyd, a business analyst, points out: “Japanese mobile phone bandwidth is free to the carriers. They didn’t have to pay for it. So rather than skin the consumers for every cent, they keep a good-value proposition.

Demanding consumers

The Japanese are blessed with some of the best-looking technology in the world. It has to be intuitive, simple and high-quality, not because the Japanese are so tech-savvy, but because they are the most demanding consumers in the world.

According to Scuka, more than 100 new phones hit the Japanese market last year as manufacturers tried out new ideas on the public. Some cultural factors, as with any other country, do play a part in Japan’s willingness to take up some technologies such as TV on the mobile.

As in Europe, this was at first a washout, but as watching TV in public becomes more socially acceptable in Japan, the number of subscribers is rising. Au, the second largest mobile network in Japan, recently signed up its five millionth subscriber to the service.

“Japanese commute on trains. The average person commutes at least an hour each way every day – that’s a lot of eyeball time. Only teenagers in Europe can match this sort of availability,” says Scuka.

It is this urban lifestyle where convenience is the key which has necessitated the rise of the all-in-one mobile plus those very funky handsets. By comparison Apple’s iPhone is a mere 2.5G plaything. In Japan, which is already into 3G and heading towards 4G, they make mobiles look good and work hard.